It’s one thing to get the ear of a politician, it’s quite another to have the stomach of the President. Obama, Daley, Rahm and Quinn—they’ve all made their pilgrimages to the Near West Side for pastrami and pie—it seems you can’t launch a campaign in this town these days without a little of Raskin’s nosh. For the rest of us, the poor unwashed masses, Raskin feeds the soul and reaffirms the Chicago in our hearts.
Resto 100 is, as always, a list of “essential” restaurants, which is most definitely not synonymous with “best.” We strive to reflect a world of dining in a constant state of innovative transition, to capture a snapshot of the state of the food world at this time.
As last year, when we first dropped Charlie Trotter’s, we’ve continued to cull the old guard of the high-end, both as a reflection of the economic times and as a call to action for such spots to up their game. This year, TRU, MK and Boka didn’t escape the chopping block. While we don’t deny their importance in creating the food scene we have today, there are many other places we’d rather send folks—for example, Sepia, Bonsoiree or Cibo Matto (where, ironically, chef Todd Stein is a vet of MK).
Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand are two of the most successful cooks this city has, but neither spends a significant amount of time at TRU. This is not so much an observation as it’s a cry for the fact that we really miss Rick’s cooking. We appreciate his cookbooks and that he tried to open a nationwide restaurant chain, but with that not working out, why not return to his roots? It should also be noted that Chef de Cuisine Tim Graham was doing some incredibly innovative work, but was recently transferred to Brasserie Jo.
Boka, which we loved for its Charlie Trotteresque complexity, has frankly been a little inconsistent in its execution on recent visits, and frankly maybe too Trotteresque. We love the direction Perennial has gone, look forward to Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat, and think maybe they outshine the original jewel in Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz’s mini-empire.
That’s not to say you have to be cutting-edge innovative or perfect to make the list. For if you do something old-school or classic and you continue to do it well and you didn’t make your bones by being a game-changer, we honor that as well. This year, we added some overlooked classics including Marie’s Pizza, Ginza and, much to our own surprise, Hyde Park’s Calypso Café. Maybe the biggest surprise was Café des Architectes, which used to be as old-school as it gets. Martial Noguier and his pastry chef Suzanne Imaz are probably two of this city’s most underrated cooks, putting out slighty twisted old-school French gourmet plates flawlessly.
Likewise, the trend of informal, casual rustic dining doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, and we dig that. To celebrate that movement we’ve added The Bristol, Paramount Room, Brown Trout, Kith and Kin and others.
The beauty of any list, though, is that you may not agree. So drop us a line and let us know.
—Michael Nagrant, Resto 100 editor Read the rest of this entry »
Resto 100 is, as it has been in years past, a list of “essential” restaurants, which is most definitely not synonymous with “best.” We strive to reflect a world of dining in a constant state of innovative transition, to capture a snapshot of the state of the food world at this time.
In these particular hard economic times, we find ourselves dining out a lot more at the BYOBs, mom-and pop-spots and small ethnic joints than we do at the high end. That being said, while we didn’t set out to consciously create a list to address our lighter wallets, it sure turned out that way. More than ever, this list is a cross section of the wealth of culturally diverse and reasonably priced restaurants Chicago is lucky to have. Read the rest of this entry »
By Michael Nagrant
Though he’s a native-born Chicagoan, my 8-month-old son’s middle name is Detroit. My wife and I figured if he became a rock star, he could just drop his guttural Slavic surname, and he’d have the perfect pseudonym: Grayson Detroit. We also figured once he got past the elementary school teases, future lovers would be smitten by the cool moniker. At its most basic, the name is a reminder of where he came from—or, more precisely, where I grew up. And by transitive relation, it was also about commemorating the place that launched my love for Chicago.
While it’s currently “America’s Most Dangerous City,” Detroit is also Motown, the birthplace of Seger, Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5 and the White Stripes. It was the antidote to my Tom Perrotta-esque suburban upbringing, an oasis of diverse cultural escape, where I could while away afternoons at the Diego Rivera murals in the Detroit Institute of Arts or watch Alan Trammell crack a bat a Tiger’s Stadium. Culinarily, it was home to great chili dogs at Lafayette Coney Island, Sicilian bakery-style pizza at Buddy’s and my first slices of baklava and saganaki in Greektown. I’d figured after I graduated from college, I’d live downtown, be part of the revitalization of the city. But, the rust belt had rusted. There were few job opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »